Choker’s voice has often been compared to that of Frank Ocean. It’s a lofty comparison that has its merit, but one thing is for sure—the music Choker makes is wholly unique. From his rainbow mesh–tops to his mix of rap, soul, and psychedelic beats, it’s clear that Choker does not want to look or sound like anyone else.
This past Friday, April 6, SPEC’s Jazz and Grooves brought Choker to campus with openers Orion Sun and the duo Bathe. Both openers put on strong soulful performances. It’s likely we’ll be hearing both Orion Sun and Bathe headline their own concerts very soon in the Philadelphia area. Lucky concert–goers were even able to hear three of Orion Sun’s unreleased songs off of an upcoming album. It’s an album that sounds extremely promising and should be on any R&B–lover’s radar.
Attending this concert was a peek into the future of alternative R&B, full of experimentation and creativity. Choker is emblematic of many alternative R&B stars of the moment. His music is engaging and unpredictable, and the performance he put on was no different. Across albums and even within songs he’ll introduce one idea, beat, or sound and swerve to another without warning. He’s largely abandoned any adherence to structure in his music—you’re not always going to find a hook, chorus, and bridge in each one of his songs. Rather than following an expected formula, Choker’s more interested in grabbing attention.
On stage, Choker goes from sitting on a stool and leaning against a wall crooning to the soulful “El Dorado” to beating his fist, jumping along with the crowd to “Diorama,” a typically psychedelic, space–inspired song but performed in concert like it was up–beat trap. Choker is able to show unparalleled creativity and adaptability. No two of his songs sound alike, and it seems like no two performances of his songs sound alike either. While most artists would struggle with performing so freely, Choker is able to make it work with his impressive vocal range and smooth raps.
While performing “Fuji Unlimited” off his latest full album Honeybloom, Choker shifts from stand–alone vocals to heavy synths full of shutter sounds and clicks. The lyrics sound like modern poetry, full of imagery and metaphors. The lyrics don’t quite reach a complete conclusion, but are rather full of ambiguity. Despite this lack of focus, Choker is able to perform with a depth of emotion that the audience was able to connect with. Although he never exactly voices his thoughts and feelings in his lyrics, they’re certainly felt by listeners.
On “Suzuki Peaches,” Choker follows a similar pattern of obscurity, yet he’s able to engage the crowd by turning the microphone to the audience to sing the “ooh-la-las.” You really don’t have to understand the song to sing along. Choker has a knack for appealing to the audience, getting them to sway, dance, jump and sing when he wants.
In his very last song, “Starfruit,” this skill is most apparent. Hopping off the stage, Choker jumps and ricochets across the floor. As he sings with the crowd, “Philly is an airport with no walls,” he becomes just another concert–goer. No longer the main–act, Choker allows himself to get lost in the crowd in a moment of effortless connection. In concert, he’s not trying to be a star—it really seems like he’s just trying to have fun just like everyone else.